In the late 1970s and early 1980s, a whiff of fresh air used to greet us as we would cross Mankhurd and hit the Vashi bridge. It was a much welcome experience, leaving Mumbai boundaries and the stink associated with the life in Navi Mumbai. Navi Mumbai was a well planned city with big roads, wide lanes and bylanes, open spaces and above all greenery all around, including the enchanting Parsik Hills.
Similar was the experience in Kalyan, Thane Dombivli or Mira Road though these places were not as planned as Navi Mumbai were. But today, the environment has deteriorated all across. It is here for all of us to touch and feel. The air is no longer fresh.
The MCAP (Mumbai Climate Action Plan), prepared by the MVA government admits that the temperature in Central Mumbai is at least two degrees higher than that of the rest of Mumbai and it blames concretization for this phenomenon. Under the guise of development and redevelopment of the area, every available inch of land is being concretized leaving no space for the rain water to seep into the ground.
Rainwater harvesting? I filed an RTI application with the Urban development department to know the status of rainwater harvesting in the BMC area and it was passed on to the civic body's water departments from one ward to another. Well, a senior BMC official called me up and asked: Sir, please tell us what can be done! He admitted that there is nothing much that he could do as building permissions and road and pavement constructions are different departments.
The MCAP itself does not take into account the importance of rainwater harvesting. On the contrary, it talks of a desalination plant to tackle the water crisis. Mumbai and MMR get more than their quota of rains, thanks to extended monsoons each year. Nature gives us more water than we need and we do not save even a centimeter of that as the entire water flows into the Arabian Sea after flooding parts of the city. And ridiculously enough, we are spending crores of rupees of taxpayers' money on the desalination plant.
Mangroves serve as front line soldiers at the coastal line to save the city from tidal water attacks, apart from contributing to the rain forest density. Mangroves and wetlands (salt pans included) also are our carbon sinks. Wetlands also are the urban sponges that absorb excess and flood water. Please don’t treat this as a boring, primary school gyan. Hold your breath: our urban planners are hell bent on destroying this ecology and biodiversity with concrete jungles.
Coastal Regulation Zones which have been shrunk to 50 metres from the high tide lines and scrapping of the river regulatory zones (RRZ) leave no scope for water to spread. Result? You have experienced floods in Badlapur, Kalyan-Shil, BKC, Sion and so on. Uran across Mumbai Harbour did not have any history of floods. Today, the villages here get submerged in tidal waters even during the Holi festival (in February-March) when there is no drop of rain. The blocking of free flow of inter tidal water by the reckless burial of wetlands and construction by raising the landfill by about ten metres are directly responsible for this. Vikas on the one side is leading to Vinash on the other. The mangroves buried at places such as Pagote as yer to restored, despite the High Court-appointed mangrove committee orders.